The portfolio of a content and design strategist
Taproot mock cropped.png

Taproot+

Scaling pro bono by expanding reach and impact without increasing team size

 

Taproot Foundation was looking to scale up its volunteer offerings, yet their model was extremely high touch.

The foundation served as an account manager—curating a pool of volunteer talent, recommending volunteers to nonprofits, creating detailed project outlines, then assisting throughout the project. Expanding this labor-intensive model required a hefty investment in personnel and infrastructure, which prompted Taproot to pose a critical question: how could technology expand their reach and impact without increasing their team size?

 

PROJECT DETAILS
/client: Taproot Foundation
/date: 2014
/role: Content Strategist, Associate Creative Director
/disciplines: content strategy, creative direction, branding, naming, MVP development
/view: taprootplus.org

 
 
 

Building and testing fast gave us essential insights for the product

  • Our original belief was that the onus of project management would belong to the non profit, however the volunteer’s proved most suited to be the driving force for completing projects.

  • While non profits were anxious for assistance, the volunteers were more motivated to make connections.

  • Taproot traditionally offered over 100 project types. We narrowed it to 10 to keep the product and project types focused. This simplification was crucial to the success of the product.

  • Our concierge MVP process allowed us to launch in less than a week with 10 real projects and a small volunteer base to test out our process in the wild. This helped us focus on what was working and iterate on the parts that weren’t.

 
 
 
The marketplace for volunteers to pick projects they are passionate about.

The marketplace for volunteers to pick projects they are passionate about.

 
 
 

What changes when you flip the process of finding support on its head?

We designed the platform and the service. A critical decision for both was flipping the process on its head. We originally assumed there would be larger demand (nonprofits needing help) and less supply (volunteers offering help), but the opposite turned out to be true. Nonprofit teams are strapped for resources and needed an easy way to ask for help. The product provided the most growth by helping non profit’s frame how to ask for help, which inevitably connected them to the best volunteers for the job. Rather than put the first step in the hands of busy nonprofits, we put it in the hands of the motivated volunteers. This was a crucial decision as it centered the design of the platform around the volunteers.

 
 
 
An example of a project page, where volunteers could quickly learn how to contact the nonprofit they were interested in working with

An example of a project page, where volunteers could quickly learn how to contact the nonprofit they were interested in working with

 
 
 

The future of nonprofits is having the help come to you

We built a digital marketplace for pro bono work that reduced the cost of the business, as well as personnel needs. While there are many pro bono legal options, there are hardly any pro bono creative resources. By creating the service we were able to simplify the project scope and connect volunteers and nonprofits faster and more efficiently.

 
 
 
 
 

SUMMARY: If you build it right, they will come.

Launched in late 2014, Taproot+, in its first year, doubled the number of nonprofits the foundation serves to over 600. This year, Taproot aims to help over 7,000 groups using the website, plus another 1,800 through its traditional programming model. They have done over $500,000 in pro bono work since the site launched.